After weeks of rising COVID-19 rates, King County has crossed the threshold for the Centers for Disease Control’s “medium” COVID-19 level, according to the county’s top health officer.
After the Omicron variant waned, the county’s COVID-19 rate per 100,000 residents fell to 53 in mid-March, and now it has risen to 214 cases per 100,000 residents, said King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin during a press conference on April 25. The current rate is around one-tenth of the rate during the peak of the Omicron variant in January 2022, Duchin said.
“This was not unanticipated as more contagious BA 2 variants spread locally and nationally,” Duchin said.
Rates for COVID-19 are rising for all age groups in the county. The rates are highest among young adults while children under 5 years old have the lowest rates, Duchin said.
While cases and hospitalizations have risen, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 have remained at a manageable level, Duchin said. This is largely due to the high level of vaccinations that protect people from serious illness, Duchin said.
King County entering the medium COVID-19 level does not mean the county will change how it is currently addressing the pandemic nor does it mean that the county is approaching a crisis, Duchin said.
Entering the medium COVID-19 level does mean that the risk for infection is increasing for residents of King County, Duchin said.
Duchin also spoke about the dangers of “long COVID” during the press conference.
“Long COVID may occur in 10-30% of cases and it can cause long-lasting fatigue, difficulty thinking and heart and lung problems that can make it difficult or impossible to work or do normal activities,” Duchin said.
Long COVID is most likely to occur in those who had severe infections and were hospitalized with COVID, but it can happen in mild cases, Duchin said. However, vaccinations decrease the risk of getting long COVID, Duchin said.
There is an increased risk of transmission, but due to the high level of vaccinations, and because hospitalizations and deaths remain low, the county is not issuing any new recommendations, requirements or restrictions, Duchin said.
Crowded indoor spaces with singing, loud talking or aerobic exercising pose an increased risk, Duchin said. Masking and getting vaccinated remain the best ways to protect yourself from COVID-19, Duchin said.
“COVID-19 is not going away. It’s going to be a long-term challenge for us and there will always be some degree of transmission out there at least for the near future,” Duchin said.